Archive for Thursday, March 26, 2009

Amtrak to build new passenger platform at Lawrence depot

More federal stimulus dollars are flowing into Lawrence, this time by train.

March 26, 2009, 2:48 p.m. Updated March 26, 2009, 5:38 p.m.


Lawrence’s Santa Fe Depot will receive $600,000 worth of renovations as part of the federal stimulus package, an Amtrak spokesman said Thursday.

Amtrak will spend $600,000 to build a new concrete passenger platform that will help the station comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Marc Magliari, a spokesman with Amtrak.

The news has some city commissioners saying that it may now be more feasible for the city to take over ownership of the depot — at Seventh and New Jersey streets — from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

“I think the cost of ADA compliance was the one big stumbling block we all saw,” said Commissioner Boog Highberger. “If that is taken out of the equation, I don’t see any major issues.”

At last Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners agreed to send a letter to BNSF officials asking for negotiations to begin on a low- or no-cost transfer of ownership of the depot to the city.

But commissioners also expressed concern about the amount of money the city may be required to invest in the building, if it gained ownership of the 1950s structure. The city had estimated about $400,000 in ADA costs, and perhaps another $100,000 in other costs, such as roof repairs.

Carey Maynard-Moody — a Lawrence resident who has led a group of volunteers working to preserve the depot — said the passenger platform was by far the largest ADA issue facing the depot.

“The amount of funding has kind of caught us by surprise,” Maynard-Moody said. “But I think it shows that Amtrak cares about communities that care about themselves. We got noticed because it is obvious we care about the depot.”

Magliari said Amtrak will build the new passenger platform regardless of whether the building’s ownership is transferred to the city. But he said the decision to move forward on the project was an indication that Amtrak believed in the future of the station.

“This certainly should demonstrate our confidence in the efforts that are going on in Lawrence,” Magliari said.

Amtrak received $1.3 billion in stimulus money to make capital improvements across the country. The $600,000 Lawrence project is the largest Amtrak project in Kansas.

Magliari said Amtrak also is studying how another $8 billion in stimulus money set aside for rail travel can be used. He said there are possibilities some of that money could be used to establish a much-talked about Northern Flyer Amtrak route that would connect Kansas City to Oklahoma City. That route would use the existing tracks that run through Lawrence. The Kansas Department of Transportation is currently studying the feasibility of the project.

“Certainly KDOT is aware of that money and is watching the situation very closely,” Magliari said.


SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 2 months ago

Every time a taxpayer dollar is allocated toward the Amtrak vacuum, you can hear a toilet flush somewhere in the distance. Or maybe that's just the sound of a riderless Amtrak train.

blindrabbit 9 years, 2 months ago

Setting the Record: Have you tried the train?; a great way to travel. I've departed from and arrived to Lawrence several times in the last 2 years.

Jaylee 9 years, 2 months ago

agreed blind rabbit! and as have i. and i have used the train when it was full all the way from the chicago suburbs to l.a.

my only beef is the food and the claustrophobic feeling i get from breathing the air inside it for too long

average 9 years, 2 months ago

Say what you will about Amtrak, SRTS, but the Chief that comes through Lawrence is far from riderless.

gccs14r 9 years, 2 months ago

If Amtrak is willing to build the platform, let them. The last thing we need is one of our local contractors getting ahold of the project funds, building the platform out of used cardboard, and pocketing the $599,999 left over.

MeAndFannieLou 9 years, 2 months ago

STRS- you may not have ever taken Amtrak, but I have, several times, and really enjoyed all the company. One time the train was so full they added cars in KC, and they ran out of lunch in the dining car (but there were sandwiches at the snack bar, so I didn't care, but I got there plenty early for dinner!). It's a very pleasant way to travel, and this country really is beautiful from the window of a train, unlike along a billboard-lined highway.

Boston_Corbett 9 years, 2 months ago

$600 K for ADA compliance on a passenger platform? Is it gold plated? Someone would have to explain that to me.

KCKANSAN 9 years, 2 months ago

The other day "Informed" offered comment about City ownership and got several facts wrong, having apparently never read the recent legislation, the Federal Railroad Administration FAQ's or become familiar with the Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The reason I pick on this blogger is because of the user name "Informed."

Another poster who is also ignorant of facts believes Amtrak trains run riderless. The facts are that the the trains often run over-capacity, and Amtrak has posted solid gains over the last 6 consecutive years. Can the idolized/idealized airlines claim the same? Why are they going bankrupt when the taxpayer pays out most of the infrastructure support, i.e. air traffic control, TSA, the airport construction, and so on? And residents of Lawrence drive an hour and 75 of their average 1000 mile journey just to get to the airport and wait an hour and a half on average.

Boston_Corbet questions the platform ("gold plated?"). If BNSF (the private sector) paid for it they would put an asphalt band-aid over the top and conveniently neglect the ADA rules that govern public construction (never mind the people)-read the project description and you will discover that the platform is 500 feet long. Convert this to a pro rata cost comparable to state highway and you're right in the ball park ($7 million a mile). The platform will include a lift system for persons with sever disability, and a safety edge common to transit platforms where there are knobby things to help people avoid walking off the edge.

Consumer 1 doesn't realize that the entire development of expanded passenger rail service can be 100% funded under the stimulus, bringing transportation, jobs and redevelopment (two blocks at a time) to this part of Lawrence that has so much potential. Wiser minds than others posting here have vision and economic progress as inspiration. Has the C.A.V.E.R. mentality ever fostered progress?

Alexander Neighbors 9 years, 2 months ago

amtrak is a very good service its way better than the bus, and alot cheaper than flying.

Boston_Corbett 9 years, 2 months ago

KCKansan. I'm not picking on rail, or the station, or Amtrak or the Unions.

But for you explain to me that 600 K is an ok cost because it compares to the running foot cost for highways...... Well that is just plain asinine on so many different levels.

And your airline comparisons are pretty idiotic too. Get real about the level of subsidization on a passenger basis for midwest rail traffic.

500 Feet? I question the interpretation that gets you to that length.

gccs14r 9 years, 2 months ago

It looks like it's about 350'. As for cost, it should be built to last, unlike our roads. We should expect no less than 50 years of life without having to do anything except maybe paint some lines. Besides, maybe the $600k includes a roof over the platform.

KCKANSAN 9 years, 2 months ago


See page 8 of 29;

Specific details for every project is included. Something on the order of $447 million.

Boston_Corbett 9 years, 2 months ago

Thanks KCKANSAN. Great information. I notice that other stations in Kansas, with equivalent and higher passenger on/off load counts are all becoming ADA accessible at far less. ($100K and far less)

This "$ 600,000 platform" seemed to me as being justified by ADA compliance. My suspicion that this was not the case, I and still believe that to be true.

My original post is still my point: "$600 K for ADA compliance on a passenger platform? Is it gold plated? Someone would have to explain that to me."

Why is it a necessity to build this 500 foot-long platform at a cost of $600,000?

I understand ADA, and that should be a priority. The interior restrooms probably need totally gutted and expanded, but all of that should be a higher priority in my mind than a '500 foot elevated platform at a cost of $600K.' Do both. I bet it would be less than $600 K and I think it would make the City Commissioners more comfortable too about accepting ownership, based on their comments. An elevated ramp is perhaps an amenity, not a requirement?

just my 2 cents.

Boston_Corbett 9 years, 2 months ago

OK, Im being too harsh. As long as we understand we are making a $500K new investment in rr passenger infrastructure, using stimulus monies, this is ok. (assuming 100K of this is ADA related.

But this really isn't related to the costs of taking over or preserving the old station. And I see why the Commissioners are reluctant to accept the station until existing ADA issues are addressed.

And it is very unfortunate Amtrack is not addressing ADA first, in its processes. Fed agencies should lead the way on ADA comliance, not dump on local units.

Axe2Grind 9 years, 2 months ago


Let's see... why don't we get rid of all taxes and start paying users fees for everything. We can start by placing a K-Tag toll gate at the end of your driveway and at each intersection. By the way, we don't need the Federal Aviation Administration either so let's just let the planes fend for themselves. We may or may not have a mid-air collision but who cares! The survivors will have pockets full of money that used to be paid in taxes. ADA compliancy? They should have been more careful before they became disabled. Let’s make everything ADA incompliant to encourage people to avoid injury…

Come on… You are a long way from being taxed out of existance. Some people need services that you might not understand. I am certain that you use some government services that I help pay for but do not personally use… such as your sewer pipe.

Frank A Janzen 9 years, 2 months ago

Not an airplane!! When I took Amtrak a few years ago, I got on the train and although it was crowded, I did have a double seat to myself. I sat down and put on my seat belt. After a while, I suddenly realized that this was not an airplane, and that I could get up and walk around, which I did. It was great. I took the train from Lawrence to Santa Fe, NM and back. I really enjoyed the travel.

KCKANSAN 9 years, 2 months ago

More on the cost of this platform:

The platforms in other cities in Kansas (e.g. Garden City) are in much better condition, maybe only needing the safety edge strip or a new lift system. Length has something to do with the need requirement as well. The Southwest Chief is a very long unit, usually 700-800 people aboard. When boarding and exiting in Lawrence the train must make two stops, the first for sleeper coach passengers towards the front, the second for coach passegers towards the rear, the diner and lounge cars separate these two parts of the train. This also happens in Topeka.

This stop and start up, and second stop eats up time (which the public is hyper critical about when it pertains to Amtrak alone), and it also costs some money. The platform is in deplorable shape in Lawrence. 500 feet of platform will accommodate the train and potentially provide a good walkway connecting to the Spring Hill Suites hotel

By and large the platform has to be rebuilt because the subsurface concrete sub-strata has passed its service life.

The station has already been remarkably cleaned up over the last year, with the private volunteer organization cleaning the depot as much as is permitted 1st Sunday of each month. This group is prepared to and would like to do more. For example, the steel support posts need to be scraped and painted. The railroad will not allow them to do this citing "liability." Progress is often stifled by all kinds of restrictions. City ownership will remove some the log jam, and make the station eligible for Federal and Kans.Trans.Enhance.Act grants.

Paul Geisler 9 years, 2 months ago

I've departed from the Lawrence Amtrak station once before and we're planning another train trip for next year! It was a very relaxing way to travel and the scenery was incredible!!! And I bet if they improve the ADA access and spruce up the station a bit even more people will start taking train trips across the country.

At least this money is going to be put to use in Lawrence, and will help present a better image of Lawrence to all of the train passengers who pass by the station each day! It's certainly better than the money the Feds are spending to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico!!! $1 million per mile? That's not even close to reality!
Check this out:

The cost of building and maintaining a double set of steel fences along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border could be five to 25 times greater than congressional leaders forecast last year, or as much as $49 billion over the expected 25-year life span of the fence, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. A little-noticed study the research service released in December notes that even the $49 billion does not include the expense of acquiring private land along hundreds of miles of border or the cost of labor if the job is done by private contractors -- both of which could drive the price billions of dollars higher.

And as John Stossel recently pointed out on 20/20 illegal immigrants are regularly using tin-snips & small torches to cut through the portion of the border fence that was just built and then the Federal Border Patrol are patching it up again! What a JOKE!!! And yet many of those same Republicans still get all emotional when they talk about Reagan telling Gorbachev to tear down the (Berlin) Wall!!!

KCKANSAN 9 years, 2 months ago

Consumer 1

Amtrak received a first in 11 year increase in budget that in the history of this hamstrung quasi-govt. corporation is unprecedented. Over the last 11 years Amtrak's meager budget was so restricted that it became impossible to repair passenger cars that were just barely out of order, thus there has been a growing backlog of cars at their repair facility in Beach Grove, Indiana, which can be seen from satellite views of the repair facility, something like 70-80 cars.

Operating under these conditions, for which there is no comparison, Amtrak has triaged deferred maintenance everywhere.

A platform in Lawrence is a good example. Amtrak will let a competive bid contract. I don't think anyone can predict who might get it.

All that may now be possible for Amtrak, to do and put in good order, will begin to be revealed. The ARRA stimulus is only part of this, and, it really will be one-step at a time, some large some small.

Lawrence could very well see a daytime intercity train in the future. The Kansas legislature held something of a hearing on this subject last week.

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